I’ve been dreading this one for a while. With both of our daughters living in other countries, Christmas will be the first time my husband and I won’t have all our children home for the holidays. As I’m trying to get myself used to the idea of a Christmas that’s very different from the 25 that came before it, I’m thinking what better time to reevaluate all this Christmas crazy—the unchecked consumerism, the dashing to and fro, the trying to be all things to all people—and think about some strategies for making things less frenzied and more meaningful? So, dear reader, here are some ideas we might both consider.
Less-is-More Decorating—Rather than dragging all that holiday googa down from the attic, what about a simple, tasteful wreath on the door, some fresh garland on the mantles, tiny white lights throughout the house, and a live potted tree to be replanted in the yard when Christmas is over?
Wise Man Christmas—Help take the kids’ focus off of toys and presents and onto the birth of the Savior by only giving them three Christmas gifts each (as many as Christ received from the Wise Men). For fun, include categories like something you want, something you need, and something to wear or something to read. And create a Christmas morning treasure hunt with clues the family can follow to each gift.
Give the Gift of Time—This could mean gifts of concert or movie tickets, coupons for indoor rock climbing, or a mani/pedi day. Or it could mean I-Owe-Yous for special outings or uninterrupted time with your child, your spouse, a sibling, or a friend, in the days before or after Christmas.
Pay it Forward—Spend Christmas day volunteering somewhere as a family or with a friend. Give the staff of a local soup kitchen the day off while you take their place, or help deliver Christmas meals for Meals on Wheels. In lieu of gifts, you can also make donations in someone’s name to non-profits like Heifer International or the Arbor Day Foundation.
Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap—Whatever you call it, rather than exchanging a Mount Rushmore of gifts with your extended family or your circle of friends, each contribute one gift and a gift swapping game that can extend the fun for hours.
Buy Local—Bless the gift recipient and your local economy by buying gifts from local craftsman and merchants. Shop Christmas craft fairs and farmers markets, then make baskets of artisan soaps, jellies, or sauces. Shop family-owned businesses for unique, even one-of-a-kind gift items. An added benefit is getting to know more people in your town.
White Elephant Christmas—Why not? What’s wrong with exchanging items you own but don’t use or regifting (no, that’s not a dirty word) something you were given but can’t or won’t use? (But be sure you remember who gave you the gift, so you don’t hurt feelings.)
Cutting Back the Crazy on the Calendar
- Think of the very best Christmases of your life and jot down some words that describe them: joyous, relaxing, family, Christ-centered.
- Now fill in the commitments you know you have for December: the kids’ school play, office Christmas party, church nativity performance.
- Now step back and evaluate your family calendar. Is there enough downtime to enjoy your family and friends?
- Are there commitments you can eliminate?
- Now revisit your descriptive words and think of ways to make them apply to the time you have free.
Make it a Homemade Christmas
I realize we’re not all P. Allen Smith. But with the help of sites like Pinterest, there’s probably something you could make and share from the heart this Christmas. Dip some holiday pretzels. Make hot cocoa mix, handmade body butter, or homemade liqueurs. Many hobby supply stores offer classes to help you learn to make a wreath, Christmas tree ornament, or other DIY gifts. If you happen to be the crafty types yourself, your gift could be a class for friends or the children of your friends to make their presents with your guidance.
Thirty years from now, these are the childhood Christmases your kids will remember. What memories do you hope they’ll have? How can you create them?
Yes, I’m secretly still hoping my girls will surprise me by showing up Christmas morning. But in the meantime, I’m gonna try doing and buying less and celebrating a whole lot more.
By Mimi Greenwood Knight